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World class, simpler skills system: Quality boost for lower level qualifications supporting people onto careers ladder

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The latest major step forward is being taken with creating a simpler skills system that will give employers the guiding hand with making sure all training is world class.

The new employer-led approvals system, which IfATE launched for level 3 technical qualifications in January 2023, is now being extended to level 2.

Level 2 apprenticeships and technical qualifications play a vital role in the skills system – servicing many valuable jobs in the economy, providing a gateway for many young people into the labour market, and a basis to further upskill and climb the careers ladder. It’s critical therefore that businesses and learners have full confidence that apprenticeships and qualifications supported by government are high quality and deliver the skills employers and learners need.

So, from today IfATE approval will only be given to level 2 qualifications that match up to employer-defined occupational standards. This is the same process already used for T Levels (level 3), Higher Technical Qualifications (level 4 and 5) and apprenticeships (level 2 to level 7). These standards set out the knowledge, skills and behaviours trainees need to learn to be competent in their jobs.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of IfATE, said:

“This is a major step towards a world class, simpler system where employers and learners can be confident in the currency and quality of apprenticeships and technical qualifications at every level. Level 2 qualifications provide a vital access point to a range of skilled jobs in the economy and are particularly important for young people taking their first step into the labour market. It is vital all technical qualifications are high quality, respected by employers, and best placed to launch people into successful careers.”

Ruth Devine, managing director of SJD Electrical, who is also a member of IfATE’s Construction and the Built Environment Route Panel which considers qualifications at all levels for approval, said:

“I strongly welcome the launch of the Level 2 technical qualification reforms. As an employer working the construction sector, quality technical education is vital for ensuring performance and safety. Learners and employers need clear, robust career pathways. Currently most learners don’t progress into relevant skilled employment in the sector and employers often find the qualifications landscape difficult to navigate. IfATE’s work with employers to develop high quality occupational standards has been transformative and improved outcomes. Building on this by linking level 2 technical qualifications to them is key to ensuring robust quality, further strengthening the talent pipeline, and increasing careers attractiveness.”

IfATE is ready to work with awarding bodies to ensure the first approved level 2 and 3 technical qualifications are available to be taught from 2025.

The first sectors under consideration at level 2 will be construction and the built environment, engineering and manufacturing, education and early years, and health and sciences. Awarding bodies will be able to submit qualifications for approval in November 2023.

For a qualification to be eligible, awarding bodies will need to prove there is genuine employer demand and that they have engaged with employers of all sizes in the qualification’s design.

DfE will be hosting a series of webinars, with IfATE and Ofqual, explaining how the reforms will work. Support documents and pre-recorded webinars for the technical approval process can also be accessed from IfATE’s website.

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